Behind The Scenes

Category Archives: Collections

What New York Slang Did We Get From The Dutch?

Today is the anniversary of the colony of New Amsterdam officially becoming New York, when the Dutch ceded control to the British. But Dutch influence on New York, and on America, is longstanding–Dutch values of tolerance and freedom of religion are things Americans hold dear (in 1597 The Netherlands established “no one shall be persecuted or [...]

When Edison Lit Up Manhattan

On September 4, 1882, the electrical age began. That day, Thomas Edison’s Edison Illuminating Company flipped the switch on his power station on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, providing electricity to homes at a price comparable to gas. By the end of the month, they had 59 customers. By the next year, they had 513. [...]

Henry Hudson: Voyager, Explorer, Lost At Sea

On September 3, 1609, Henry Hudson sailed into the river that now bears his name. He had departed Amsterdam on April 4 on his ship the Halve Maen (Half Moon), on a mission from the Dutch East India Company to find a passage to Asia through the Arctic Ocean. However, due to some slightly fortuitous [...]

What Objects Define New York?

How do you define a city? Is it its buildings, its people, its history? In the upcoming exhibition A Brief History of New York: Selections from A History of New York in 101 Objects, the New-York Historical Society attempts to make sense of the city’s past through its objects. So, what objects define us? Due to [...]

Where Was New York International Airport?

On July 31, 1948, New York International Airport was dedicated. You may be wondering what that is, considering that none of the airports that serve the New York City metropolitan area are called that. Well, before it was called JFK, and even before it was called Idlewild, the airport was dedicated as the New York International [...]

Remember The NYC Subway Token

On July 25, 1953, New York City’s subway fare was raised to 15 cents. Instead of making subway riders have three nickels each time, the city introduced the subway token, which became a symbol of the city until it was phased out for the MetroCard in 2003. The initial subway token design featured the initials [...]

What Do Beavers Have to Do With Manhattan Real Estate?

It’s John Jacob Astor’s birthday today. The Astors were a powerful family in early New York history, making their fortune from the beaver pelt trade, and eventually owning a ton of city real estate.  They’re why we have Beaver Street in the FiDi, and why Astoria is called Astoria. (He didn’t even put up a [...]

How New York Reacted To World War I

World War I began on July 28, 1914, almost exactly 100 years ago. The United States did not enter the war until 1917, but the horrors of the war were known, and America reacted in a number of different ways. First, there were those who supported the war and the troops, however they could. This [...]

How We Celebrate Our Independence

My plan for this Independence Day involves hot dogs, hanging out on my friend’s balcony, and watching the fireworks on the East River. I think it’s a pretty good way to spend my day, but New Yorkers have been celebrating with parades, beaches and parties since we pulled down that statue of King George. Some [...]

Enjoy Tiffany Lamps? Thank Thomas Edison

  Tiffany Studio’s stained glass lamps are among the most gorgeous decorative objects ever created and represent an incredible historical moment of American art joining the world stage. While numerous countries are filled with beautiful painting, sculpture and architecture, American stained glass of the late-19th and early-20th century outshines the competition. Tiffany lamps not only [...]